A Postcard From: Jiayu Zhou ’20

Name: Jiayu Zhou
Class Year: 2020
Hometown: Ningbo, China
Major: Anthropology
Intern Place: PCDC (Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation)
Job Title: Special Events Assistant

I decided to intern at Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation within no more than  two minutes. Initially driven by a curiosity to study Asian American community and to experience working in NGO, I have nevertheless learned a lot more.

My seat in the office.

‘Challenges and mistakes are nothing to be afraid of!’

The moment my supervisor asked me to make a banner, I stood next to her for about one minute, holding the necessary materials with an un-functioned brain. Did she just ask me, the newly-arrived intern and the least handy person in the world (I really think so), to decorate the place where an important event was about to take place? She quickly left the office, leaving me a brief how-to and work that needed to be done in 30 minutes. Feeling pushed and stressed, I sat down and started the work ineptly. Following the instructions, things seemed to be a lot smoother than I thought. Yet just when I began to feel a little relaxed, the weirdly short string made me realize that a huge mistake had been made — the spacing between words was a total mess. “What should I do, there was just 10 minutes left! … She is going to kill me!” I was extremely panicked for about two minutes, but then made up my mind — even if I got fired today, I need to get the work done. Ran to the printer, I re-prepared all the colored papers needed, and spent the next 15 minutes re-making the banner. Well, I still failed to finish the assignment on time, and the quality of my work was not so uplifting. However, on that day, I realized the reason challenges scare people away rests on the possibility of making mistakes. But in fact, mistakes and challenges should be nothing to be afraid of — face them, think of ways to compensate for them, and learn from them.

‘I really need to make more money for living’

The burden of living as low-income immigrants/residents didn’t hit me until I started to survey small businesses in Chinatown. What’s supposed to yield mainly demographic information about the business owners usually ended up being that I sat there listening to their hardships. Some people would say a lot, from how they just got robbed recently, how the overcrowded resultants have dragged everybody into price war, to how they thought their business was still under the influence of the 2008 finical crisis. I couldn’t forget that one day a shop owner kept telling me “Life here is too hard, I need to make more money.” Being exposed to this kind of information is not always easy. The first few days of surveying, even when I got back home after work, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. In fact, even now, I am constantly thinking about: What can the organization do to help their life? And, What I am doing to solve their problems? These are not questions I am ready to answer.

An old photo of snow-covered Chinatown found on the first few days of work.

An old photo of Chinatown I found on the first few days of work.